Imagine a typical school day: a whirlwind of maths, languages, history, and science. But what if there was one subject, often overlooked, that could give students a significant edge in academic achievement? Let’s venture into the world of physical education and explore how it can sharpen students’ learning abilities and even boost their grades.
The Benefits of Physical Education
In the hustle and bustle of academic learning, physical education often takes a backseat. But emerging research from Malmö University in southern Sweden, led by Assistant Professor Ingegerd Ericsson, reveals an interesting link between physical education and improved academic performance. More importantly, this study is not a one-off experiment—it follows over 200 schoolchildren for nine years, providing an invaluable longitudinal view of the impact of physical education on children’s development.
Tracking Motor Skills and Grades
How exactly did the researchers investigate this relationship? Picture three cohorts of children, all in grades 1-3 at two schools in Malmö. One group, the intervention group, engaged in physical education five days a week, along with extra motor training. The other group, the control group, had regular instruction.
Over nine years, Ericsson kept tabs on motor skills like balance and coordination among 220 students. She also compared their test results in grade 2 and their final grades in grade 9. The aim? To reveal any clear links between increased physical activity and improved academic achievement.
Active Learning Pays Off
When the researchers compiled the report, the findings were striking:
- 96 percent of the intervention group achieved the goals of compulsory school and qualified for upper-secondary school, compared to 89 percent in the control group. Notably, it was the boys’ performance—with 96 percent versus 83 percent—that propelled this outcome. These boys also had significantly higher grades in Swedish, English, Mathematics, and PE and health than the boys in the control group.
- By grade 9, a whopping 93 percent of the students in the intervention group had good motor skills, compared to 53 percent in the control group.
The Bigger Picture
This unique, long-term study builds a compelling case for the role of physical education in academic achievement. Its findings gain even more credibility due to the homogeneous nature of the groups under investigation. The children were all of the same age, attended the same school, and had parents with comparable education, income, and interest in physical activity.
And the implications are clear. More physical education and adapted motor skills training don’t just improve motor skills—they also boost school achievement. By promoting more physical education and health, considerably more students attain passing grades.
Physical Activity and Cognitive Health
But how does physical activity relate to academic achievement? Consider how active play and structured physical education can develop motor skills like coordination and balance. These motor skills are linked to brain development, which can influence cognitive skills such as learning, memory, and problem-solving—skills crucial to academic success.
Moreover, physical activity can also improve mental health, reduce stress, and increase concentration. All of these factors can play a role in a child’s ability to learn and perform acadically.
In many schools, physical education has been trimmed down to one or two lessons a week. Yet, this research challenges this approach and scientifically confirms that daily scheduled physical education can make a positive difference in not just motor skills but also school achievement.
This study also complements previous research by Professor Magnus Karlsson, which showed that daily physical education has a positive effect on the development of the skeleton and muscles. Active children had the least tendency to develop overweight and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
It’s Time to Move
As you reflect on this, think about the potential impact that more physical education could have on children’s academic achievement and overall development. It’s not just about burning off energy or learning a new sport—physical education could be a game-changer in their journey towards academic success.
So, the next time you hear the whistle for PE class, remember that it’s not just a break from books. It’s a stepping-stone towards better grades, healthier bodies, and more successful futures. It’s time to move, and it’s time to learn—the two are more interconnected than you might think. After all, a healthy body nurtures a healthy mind, and an active child is primed for active learning.